[Marxism] Prairie Miller on "Zero Dark Thirty"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 19 07:58:30 MST 2012

(Prairie is a colleague of mine on NYFCO).


If there is any entity out there more intent than the US government on 
choreographing  - either in advance or retroactively - the outcome of 
world events, it's Hollywood. One need only witness the procession of 
post-Vietnam Hollywood movies staging a do-over, and winning that lost war.

Ditto director Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, a Mark Boal scripted 
revenge thriller cloaked as docudrama, or perhaps even the other way 
around. And postulating that the target assassination of a single man, 
Osama Bin Laden, brings effective closure to whatever is bugging the 
Middle East about this country. In effect, a novel sort of mandatory 
Hollywood ending that, if impeded, will crush anything in its way.

Zero Dark Thirty revisits presumed events leading up to the CIA 
orchestrated murder of Bin Laden in May 2011 in Pakistan. And still to 
this day ensconced in multiple layers of secrecy that sparked 
Congressional controversy against the filmmaker herself. Who is 
suspected of receiving collaborative classified CIA information from the 
Democratic administration, about the assault operation.

And yet another entry into the 'one side to every story' school of 
moviemaking and Simple Simon Says movie criticism, Zero Dark Thirty 
dramatizes events told solely from the self-congratulatory CIA point of 
view. A questionable approach that would never pass muster as journalism 
- but termed by Bigelow as journalistic filmmaking, apparently gets an 
emphatic pass. And a spy thriller category that currently includes Argo 
and Skyfall. But the big difference with the latter film, is that it 
never pretends to be other than fiction.

Jessica Chastain stars as Maya in Zero Dark Thirty, a workaholic CIA 
agent whom we've been informed preemptively in the press as being based 
on a real woman. Maya has her own ideas about where Bin Laden is hiding, 
theories which are initially dismissed by her predominantly male 
colleagues. And not without somewhat of a denigrating attitude toward 
female hunches.

But Maya's persistence eventually nudges them into taking her seriously, 
and even though there is not absolute certainty about Bin Laden's actual 
presence in the targeted compound. So the assault is orchestrated 
anyway, during which a number of the residents are summarily executed 
and children terrorized.

And the fact that the mission trespassing in another country could have 
been in error with lots of victims anyway, is never addressed. Nor is 
the fact that most such successful ventures are accomplished not through 
any brilliant powers of deduction but rather bribery, every suggested - 
and there was quite a multi-million dollar tidy sum in this case.

In any case, the supposed necessity of shrouding this drama in utter 
secrecy lets Bigelow nicely off the hook. No need to probe what's left 
in question, such as exactly how the shadowy figure of Bin Laden himself 
expired. And what gripes terrorists harbor against the United States in 
the first place. Or who is Maya, really. Which lends to her vague 
character the generic implication, of just another feminist trying to 
assert herself in a man's world.

Even her CIA torturer buddy played by Jason Clarke, gets a better back 
story. He may relish brutalizing and sexually humiliating prisoners, but 
the guy loves the lab monkeys he shares his ice cream cones with. And is 
distraught with grief after they're euthanized.

Which brings this CIA simulated snuff movie back full circle to that 
Hollywood happy ending in question. So has more psychological than 
tactical revenge concerning a single man concluded the war on terror, or 
for that matter US war in the Middle East in general? Maya's unhappiness 
at the end is clearly a calculated bid for the filmmakers to have it 
both ways.


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